I wanted to make this chart to clearly outline the pros and cons of the materials we use every day. Based on EPA’s facts about Styrofoam, Plastic, Glass, and Aluminum (and metals in general) here is a general rule of thumb for what you should use, and how often you should use it.
NEVER use Styrofoam. It is 0% recyclable and breaks down in the environment into its chemical bases, which is a toxic form of pollution. Now you can buy bio-degradable packing peanuts made from corn starch that dissolve in liquid, but still keep in mind that you should not use Styrofoam cups or take out boxes. These are NOT biodegradable and if they are, they are coated in a plastic that will prevent them from breaking down. (because you don’t want your coffee cup melting in your hand)
Plastic is a really incredible material, it’s light weight and “cheap.” But plastic is made from the same stuff we put in our cars: Petroleum! If we want to conserve what’s left of our petroleum reserves we need to really cut back on our plastic use, especially the “one use plastics” like bags, utensils and cups. A German scientist has invented a kind of plastic that is 100% recyclable. “Cradle to Cradle” plastic.
Glass is 100% recyclable, and it comes from a completely sustainable source: Sand! However, it IS heavy, and it IS breakable, but with the power of science many companies are providing lighter, break resistant glass. Think about it, those starbucks frappuccino drinks come in glass bottles, so does old school coke. Use glass when you can, and make sure to save it all for a Monthly or Bi-Monthly trip to a recycling drop off center, since most Curb Side services will not pick up glass recycling.
Aluminum, Tin, & Steel
These metals are incredible, like plastic they are light weight and durable, but they are 100% recyclable as long as they aren’t coated in plastic or wax. They are all 100% recyclable because they are a metal and easily melt down and can be reformed. The only down-side is that we get the raw material from mining, which can have a negative effect on the environment. Especially mountain top removal mining, which is the new “most efficient” method, but almost the most detrimental. You’ll be surprised how many of the items you use every day are Aluminum, Tin, and Steel. Just check the bottom and chuck it in the recycling bin.